Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Stress-Free Valentine's Day - Part 2

Try to plan your Valentine's Dinner Menu a week or so ahead of time. Look through circulars to see what is on sale for some inspiration/savings. Bookmark recipes found on the internet or in your cookbooks and write down your menu so that you can look them up later, once you have begun cooking.

Once you have your ingredients and menu, buy your ingredients 2 days before you plan to cook (this includes wine, champagne or booze). If you are making something like beef stew, which can sit overnight and develop further flavors, then just buy your ingredients 1 day ahead. You do not want to buy meats too early as they will go bad or need to be frozen. Vegetables should be kept in the refrigerator with the exception of tomatoes-these need to ripen outside of the fridge and turn starchy rather than sweet if refrigerated. An additional benefit to early shopping is that you may need to go to more than 1 grocery store to find your ingredients, and that extra day will cut down on your stress. Nothing worse than find out last minute that you are lacking the integral ingredient for your dish!

Clean serving dishes, silverware (especially if you are using good silver!), wine glasses etc the day before the big meal. Clean champagne flutes and rise extremely well; any leftover soap residue will inhibit bubbles from forming, making the champagne appear flat. Using a cloth napkin and a little water, you can remove residue from other glasses and silverware for a clean and shiny appearance.

The night before, prepare ingredients. Chop any onions, garlic, celery, etc and store in plastic baggies or Tupperware. If cooking with chicken, wash with cool water and cut off gristle/fat. Cut meat into desired pieces, place in bowl, cover and refrigerate. Most sauces or soups can sit in the fridge overnight until needed the next day. If you can, make you dessert the night before. Get as much "prep work" done as you can, and do all of your dirty dishes the night before!!!!!

The morning of your Valentine's meal, tidy up bedroom area and bathroom. Check to see that you have enough toilet paper, soap, a hand towel and tissues available. Make sure your or your roommate's items are not laying about the apartment, put them in their proper location.

Set your table! Clean surface of dining table and cover with tablecloth. Set table with plates, napkins, silverware and glassware. Place vase in middle of table and add flowers later. Put salt, pepper and any similar items on table. Arrange centerpieces and candles. Setting your table the morning of will decrease stress as the clock ticks down. Have red wine on the table or white, rose or sparkling wine in the fridge.

Prepare your dishes so that you can saute/bake/fry them as soon as your guest arrives. Clean and put away dishes. If preparing a salad, have this ready and covered in your fridge. Have saute pan, soup pots, stirring spoons or spatulas ready on stove top with olive oil and spices.
Try to have the above done 2 hours pre-meal time.

Take a shower and get ready at a leisurely place. It might be a good idea for you to have ONE glass of wine while you are awaiting your guest. Once they arrive, take their coat and offer them a drink. You do not need to rush into the kitchen, rather this may seem hurried or even rude. Socialize for a bit then start cooking.
And don't forget, smile and enjoy yourself and your company. A pleasant demeanor adds more to a meal than a perfectly cooked steak.

Have a Happy Valentine's Day!


Tried my recipe? Please let me know how it turned out for you! Be honest (and kind!)